A Cold Front

Wind out of the northwest across Lake Michigan created lake-effect snow, covering the town in two feet of the white stuff. This happened every year; the swift and orderly snow managment pointed to the German heritage, far more so than any of the town's several thousand denizens might have been comfortable with.

Coincidentally, Mr Gregory Ubermench plowed through The Treaty of Versailles for the second time this year, focusing on the issues that lead into WWII. Context, Ubermench thought, brought history alive for kids.

The town's small population meant that the entire graduating class was discussing the first salvos of WWII on the German Western front. Ubermench planned to touch a bit on the Russian/German front in a few days, primarily focusing on Stalingrad. But, for now, the German tanks took one country after another, all the way to France.

"Now we do not want to sell the French short here based on their quick capitulation. Remember Napoleon. And again, today, even. They are regularly one of the top military budgets in the world."

Franklin heard none of it. Franklin sat in the middle row near the windows. Perhaps the distance from the board and teacher cause some subconsciously determination. He didn't hate the past, but he'd be living in the future. He wanted to be a doctor, not historian. However, his biology scores promised little. He hoped for a lab coat and stethoscope anyway.

Through the window, he watched the janitor, Mr Adams, shovel the walk way to the teacher's parking lot. Then all of a sudden, Adams fell down under the level of the snow. Franklin chortled and immediately covered his mouth.

"What's so funny, Franklin?"

"Sorry, Mr Ubermench. Mr Adams fell down."

"That's not funny," Ubermench said and went to the window. "He could be hurt." He looked out and saw red marks just barely visible, his sight line higher than Franklin, who had not seen the blood. His first aid certification had expired decades before. So Ubermench pulled out his cell phone and called the office. "Nancy? Something's wrong. John just fell in the snow outside by the teacher's parking lot. There's blood. Can you get Hamer out there? Maybe an ambulance?"


Fortunately, despite budget cutbacks, the Nurse Hamer was on her once-a-week duty at the High School school. Hamer grabbed her coat and headed to the Pig Lot (so christened due to ongoing patrols due to vandalism of teacher's vehicles). Through the door windows, she saw the blood. The red-brown muck looked already half-frozen on the ground, but she didn't see the janitor. John's shovel stood off to the left, stuck in the snow like a bare flagpole. On the right there appeared to be a gap in the snow.

She walked out the door. Three steps later, she felt something grab her right foot, making her do the splits for the first time since Jr. High. Startled, she did not even scream in pain. She felt something soft and tight on her foot. When she behind her, snow had covered her right leg.

Then she heard gnawing.


Principal Pulaski had heard about the janitor. He went to help the nurse if she needed, but as he turned down the corridor and looked out the glass door, he only saw a leg disappear into the snow, snake-like and slow.

"That's not good," he said.

He leaned onto the window with his hands pressed on it and over his eyes, trying to see. He saw nothing through the heavy, vandal-resistant glass.

He heard a thunk. Startled, he jumped back. A tentacle the size of his forearm pawed the glass. It didn't taper so much as round off at the end. There were a handful of scars on the thing. Pulaski stepped back. The tentacle retreated into the snow.

"Shit, Dad," he said quietly to himself.

"What the fuck is that?" a small voice said behind him. The principal turned around and saw one of the Freshman, a young man named Aron. Pulaski thought Aron was a faggot. Pulaski couldn't do anything about it, anyway. Not any more. He would sure as shit love to throw him on the pyre.

"Language, Aron."

"Is that blood?"

"I think so," he said, paused, then continued. "Aron, can you go out there and check on this for me?"

"Fuck that, man," Aron said, then ran off to whatever class he should have been in anyway.


Pulaski bit his lip. He reached in his pocket and pulled out his phone, found a contact entry, dialed.

"Officer Lakoff. Can you meet me at the entrance to the pi--I mean teacher parking lot? Thanks."


In Ubermench's class, a pile of kids stared out the window. The school--whose architecture resembled more a prison than school--gave a clear view of what happened to Nurse Hamer, complete with required fountains of blood and chunks of unidentifiable viscera expelled into the air. The arcs of the bloody bits' travel would have made excellent demonstrations of the Newton's Laws to Mrs Nicholson's freshman physics class, had they seen their nurse devoured in an even better perspective from her 2nd floor classroom. Instead, they watched an old copy of Sagan's Cosmos, blinds closed, the VHS tape warbling Sagan's voice-over.

A single student in Mr Ubermench's class saw the principal as he approached the glass. "Walk out there, you bastard," the boy said.


Lakoff, an off-duty uniformed police officer, picked up a few hours here and there at the school. One of his kids was a freshman. The principal didn't need him here as often as he thought he did. But they had money for security, thanks to the Department of Homeland Security and cutbacks in the nursing staff at the district level. Besides, Lakoff was an old friend of Principal Pulaski, so it all worked out.

A few minutes later, Lakoff came around the corner and saw the mess outside.

"Jesus Christ on a spit covered in barbecue sauce, what the hell happened out there?"

"Some kind of monster out there in the snow. Killed John and Hamer, too."

"How do you know that, Chris?"

"Walked around the corner and saw Hamer's foot slide into the snow to the left here. Then a tentacle comes and tries to grab me." Principal Pulaski tapped the window with his foot. And, right then, the tentacle came out, hunting.

"Well, shit, man. I ain't going out there. Alone at least." Lakoff brought his hand up to the radio, cocked his head, spoke into it. "Dispatch, this is Lakoff. We have an unidentified animal here at North Barbie High. Near the pi-- teacher parking lot. At least two victims. Send backup." He let off the button. Then pressed it again, "And animal control."

"10-4," the radio said.


Three city cops, two state troopers, and two animal control officers died trying to figure out what they should not.

In each case, they walked anywhere near the animal. Several officers made a perimeter around where the thing was found, watching for movement.

On the other side of the school, children and teachers evaculated. The teachers took a bus around the school to their cars and told to evacuate the area. The children assigned to the bus waited impatiently in the cold until it could return.

A large bulge under the snow near the building occasionally appeared to breathe. Though the cops all produced their own frosty breath, the animal did not.

"Light snow so far this year," Officer Ubermench--the teacher's brother--said to his commanding officer.

The C.O. had no patience "What is it, Officer Ubermench?"

"Well, sir, I was thinking, maybe would melt the snow?"

"With what? You got a shitload of salt somewhere? You'll kill the grass."

Figures, Ubermench thought. The commanding officer's love for greenery was well known. "We might kill the grass, but in case you hadn't noticed, nine people are dead because of that thing and this lawn wasn't exactly on the Alabaster Corporation's Beautiful Lawn Registry."

The commanding officer knew; his lawn was on the registry three years running.

"Okay. Point taken."

"We could also use some salamanders. Like they use to thaw the construction worker's equipment."

"Yeah yeah. I know what they are. Good suggestion. Then we could see this damned thing. Do you have one?"

"Yes, sir. I actually do."

"Can you get it here?"

"I'll get my son to bring it. I'll need a requisition to replace the kerosene, not to mention any more we might need."

"Whatever, Ubermench. Get it done. Ask around to see if some others have another one or two."


Four heaters blew hot air onto the iced snow. It melted quickly, in spots leaving water for blood. The cops threw salt into the snow. Nobody threw the salt right onto the mound where they suspected the entity laid. They proceeded like this, moving the heaters forward every few minutes as more snow was cleared.

After a while, the cops stood within salt-throwing distance of the mound. A couple pieces of the salt burrowed into the snow.

"You hear that?" one cop asked another.

"No, what?"

"Sounds like crying."

"Raiding the evidence locker again, Reggie?"

"Fuck off, Thompson."

Soon enough even Thompson heard a whimper after he threw a handful of the salt on the thing.

It sat up. Or stood up. Or, more properly, assumed a position undefinable.

Showing itself before everyone, the entity had few biological structures that within the vocabulary of those present. A biologist after years of study at the depths of the oceans may have identified the pale yellow ridge along the back of the creature, making it resemble some crustacean or another. The half-dozen tentacles poking out of the tri-symmetric body surely resembled a cephalopod, an giant octopus more like. It resembled more a cache of random biological parts than a coherant being.

The whiteness of the skin: if not for the shadows, one could not see where snow ended and creature began. The tenticles, a few previously witnessed, were joined with scores of others, which also were studded with their own smaller arms, fully covered in suckers and mouths. There was no gaping maw to speak of, a splatter of blood on one of the arms still born suggested to those present the creature ate through the little mouths.

Of course every officer with one available pulled their guns.

The creature didn't so much as speak as emit noise. They all felt more than heard the low sound. Ubermench thought it like when one's bowels turn to water before a colo-rectal emergency. Of course, this could have simply been the fear of this thing.

Ubermench no longer even considered this thing a creature as creatures were alive. Even the most disgusting and low living things posessed a basic right to exist. This entity was not even that. It should be annihilated in ways that violated laws of thermodynamics (Ubermench learned that in from Mrs Nicholson's Physics class).

Something about it felt wrong. It felt like one might feel looking at the face of god. Or when witnessing the dawn of time.

He couldn't destroy the thing utterly. He only had a gun. So he shot without really thinking. And, when his co-workers heard the crack of his gun, they all opened fire. Given the size, few shots missed, and the bullets that hit left small holes which oozed out something with a delicious red color. Soon, the red dots covered the entity, but they kept firing.

Without warning, the thing shuddered and threw a giant plume of snow into the air.

They continued to fire. Rather than flesh, the bullets started striking bricks. Because the snow still settled, nobody realized the thing moved until officers started screaming and dying.

Ubermench watched a pair of tentacles grab Officer O'Malley and fold him in half, backwards. Like his "da", another O'Mally died only a couple years from retirement. His son, O'Mally the third, made a mental to take an early retirement when offered, if he lived.

Then Ubermench remembered salt.

"Salt!" he yelled at nobody, grabbed a handful of rock-salt, and threw it as hard as he could at the creature. Most of the salt was dust and a cloud of briny, snowy air flew back at him. He choked and spat and raspberried the stuff out of his mouth as best as possible but, then he saw the creature.

The sound was even louder this time, threatening to loosen the bowels of most of the nearby officers.

Salt appeared to thaw its blood, letting it run freely. While bullet wounds covered much of the creature, it didn't bleed much.

And, with salt, it bled.

Another officer, covering their mouth and nose with another hand like a sensible person, threw even more salt. And again. And again. And the thing stopped fighting. It's tentacles came into itself and wrapped around itself and tried to protect itself from the onslaught as more and more officers took up the hint and threw salt at the thing. The whimpring softened and the thing fell.

An officer jumped into the city's dump truck that held the salt and backed it towardto the thing and proceeded to back it to where the thing lay. He got out and started pushing giant shovelfulls on it, covering it in a mound like a salt-crusted dish in some gourmet restaurant.

The cops crowded around the pile of salt. They stood around in silence for a moment. They saw the mound rise once more and they all stepped back, drawing their weapons.

"Dear god, what is that thing?"

The mound fell and did not rise again.

"I know," someone said. The cops all turned and looked at Principal Pulaski. He wore a black trench coat. It fluttered in the breeze like in a movie. "I know what it is."


The officers dug the corpse from the salt, scared to touch the thing directly. Several managed to overcome their fear and helped lift the corpse into a dump truck.

"Okay. Follow me."

"What is that thing?" one of the officers asked again.

Pulaski looked at him. "Don't worry about what."

Pulaski got into his car; the cops got in theirs, one drove the truck. They followed his car not to the country, as some suspected they might, but downtown.

The downtown stores mostly existed to pull in tourist dollars: antique shops, hair salons, and other shops that replaced the old grocery, gun, and other stores. They all went by the wayside when a Wal-Mart came up in the next town over. Some stores, like Pulaski's father's liquor store, kept their doors open, though. The next town sat in another county, which had restrictive liquor license requirements.

The bizzare funeral processsion stopped in front of the liquor store the principal's father, a Walter Pulaski, walked out with the help of a walker (replete with tennis balls instead of the rubber stoppers) and got into Pulaski's car. He left the walker with a clerk on the side of the road.

They then drove two blocks and stopped in front of an alley. The younger Pulaski put the car in park and got out.

"We'll need to get it down the alley. Anyone have a dolly or a big cart of some sort?"

While Pulaski the Younger handled logistics of moving the thing, his father got out of the car. The elder walked slowly, as he had left his walker, down the alleyway. When out of sight, he broke into a run. From under his wool suit-jacket, he produced a comically large set of keys, from which he plucked one. While running full speed a bystander might guess he would run into the door. But in some fluid motion he kept running, put the key in, unlocked it opened the door, entered, and removed the key. This all happened in less than a second.

He went down down down the steep set of stairs in darkness. The door shut and locked itself behind him when he was half-way down the first flight, leaving only the outline of the door.

As he turned a corner, a string of blue Christmas lights started and followed the stairs down. He took the stairs two at a time down even further until he reached another door.

He stopped. He then quietly pulled out the keyring, choosing a key among the dozens. He slid it slowly into the deadbolt. He did not want to make much noise now. He felt the key slide in, the tumblers move up to position, and allowed the barrel of the lock to turn freely.

But the door was already unlocked. He mouthed a curse, but not in English, nor even in Polish (which one would gather, given his name), but rather in a language ancient and dead by the time of Jesus. Not that Pulaski's language and Jesus had to do with one another.

He put his hand on the door. "Still cold. Good." If not for the dryness in the stairwell, the door might have been white with frost.

He gathered the courage to open the door and, as he pushed it open, he felt a gust of cold air far colder than any winter on the coast of the great lakes.

The compressors belched out the freezing air. He smelled a slight tinge of ammonia in the air, indicating there was a leak in the cooling system. It would need to be handled, but not now. Not now.

She had waited for him, of course. "You childish fool," she said from under the fur lined hood. "You let it out. Goddess will be angry."


He only assumed the gender of the birthing entity of course as female. Pulaski's ignorance of reality was immaterial to reality. The woman knew this and translated to the most applicable word in his vocabulary. No disrespect meant, but the man simply could not understand. Futher, it didn't matter to the entity one whit.

She aged as universe, oscillating; not growing old or young, as both imply an end. Time existed before, time existed after, she supposed. But not yet. Every cycle she chose a new name. Some like her liked older names; she instead chose common names. She had forgotten her original last name, and her new one existed for mere appearance. She chose it randomly from a literal phone book, which still existed when she started her last aging cycle.

"Cynthia, I didn't mean to," he said. They walked further around a couple corners. Every step brough the temperature down even more.

"Of course you did not. I forgive, due to your youthful indiscretion. I trust your father explained what happened." She spoke of the Principal.

"Yes. He did."

"Then you realize that this is not going to end well for you."

"But you said it was forgiven."

"By me. I cannot say the same for Her."

Cynthia served Goddesses before and she would serve others after. Goddess was not the right word, again. But it was close enough for mortals like Pulaski.

They rounded the final corner and saw Her. The Goddess Onn reclined in restful slumber upon a pile of fresh snow. That is, one could say she laid, but the proper orientation of Goddess was beyond knowing in this dimension. Cynthia explained it repeatedly and to both Pulaskis and neither got to understanding.

She had said, "Think if you were in a 2 dimensional world. You would still see lines suggesting depth even though you lived on a plane. Even at that level, there is still an ineffable thickness. Our world has that same ineffability, but in the higher dimensions."

They called her the Goddess Onn. Cythia knew the word "Goddess" rounded off actual reality.

As Onn moved, variously sized shapes pop in and out of existence in the air. Not existence, rather moved into ways those like Pulaski and Cynthia could see.

They took their positions by the sigils on the floor. Cynthia cleared her throat and said, "Goddess, we ask for an audience."

The air shook. The wet voice sounded like it came from between and within.


Pulaski said, "The child, Qos, escaped from the chamber. This was my fault. It found its way to the surface of our world and killed many people. It was then killed by the authorities here."


And then Onn disappeared. And Pulaski did as well.


Before his body distributed itself across 4-dimensional space, Pulaski had time to note that he literally could not contain himself. He tried to laugh, but his mouth was somewhere else.


The other Pulaski saw a sphere appear, then grow and shrink benignly. Then he heard a sound that he could only describe as sharp. He turned around and saw one of the police officers that had accompanied him. Except, rather, he only saw the pants of the officer. The upper half of the man disappeared into what Pulaski knew as higher dimensional space. The cop might survive no time at all or for a long time, depending on the geometry of his destination. But he would likely just fall apart, his parts about some higher dimension of existence.

*Pop* *Pop* *Pop* went the heads of 3 men who stood in front of the corpse to get their picture taken. The flash caught the exact moment when the middle one's head disappeared. The other two stood there, not yet reacting. Their demise came an instant later, almost before the photons had time to be collected by the camera.

Then came another sound, just a crunching. Pulaski turned and saw a hairy object, a three-dimensional polygon of indeterminate nomenclature or even shape, come into being and smash a police cruiser, complete with occupants. The object moved out of these three dimensions.

Pulaski then heard a sound like the unfurling of a plastic garbage bag. A clear membrane appeared around the creature's corpse. Slowly, delicately, the body rose and settled in the membrane.

And all the presently living people around just looked confused and unable to process what they had just witnessed.

One cop raised his shotgun, because that would solve this obviously. The charge wasn't buckshot, but salt. Pulaski reached out, pushed the barrel away, and said quietly, "No."

The Goddess left to mourn her child, who had not grown up to final dimensionality. He had never seen this before, but Pulaski knew that one did not fuck with extra-dimensional beings; the limited universe making such sadness incomprehensible. The kid should have left the school, but everyone was lucky to have gotten off so lightly.